The Editors Guild of India on Thursday asked former Union minister MJ Akbar to withdraw the criminal defamation case he filed against journalist Priya Ramani on 15 October, as the top editors’ body came out in support of the women journalists who have accused him of sexual harassment.
In a statement released on Twitter, the Guild also offered legal support to women journalists who have levelled the allegations against Akbar in case he does not withdraw the present case or files such cases against the other women too.
The Guild’s support for the women came a day after Akbar resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs.
“The resignation of Mr M. J Akbar from Union council of ministers is a result of these women journalists’ courage to fight for a high principle: gender equality in the newsroom.
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) October 18, 2018
“We hope that Mr Akbar will also display the grace to withdraw the criminal defamation case he has filed against one of these complainants,” the Guild said in a statement.
“But if he doesn’t, or in case he files such cases against other women too, the Guild offers its support to them. If any of them were to need legal advice or assistance, the Guild will do the best it can to help and also appeal to eminent lawyers to represent them pro bono,” the statement added.
The Guild’s statement comes on a day a Delhi court commenced hearing on Akbar’s criminal defamation complaint against Ramani, who has accused him of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal took cognizance of the offence under section 500 of the IPC in the defamation suit filed by MJ Akbar and adjourned the case for further hearing on October 31. The court will examine statements of Akbar and other witnesses on the day.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for the minister, told the court that the tweets of journalist Priya Ramani were defamatory in nature, which had garnered retweets and likes by over 1200 people.
Highlighting Akbar’s professional history to establish his reputation, the lawyer argued that the case had caused “irreparable damage to Akbar’s reputation which he had built over 40 years”.
She said articles in international and national media carried Ramani’s tweets, which were defamatory unless the journalist could prove anything.
Akbar had on Monday filed the complaint against Ramani alleging she “wilfully” and “maliciously” made imputations against him with the ulterior motive of maligning his reputation and political standing.
The defamation case filed two days ago led more women and some men too to come forward in their defence of Ramani and others. On Tuesday night, 20 journalists, who had worked at The Asian Age during Akbar’s tenure, issued a joint statement against him.
(With agency inputs)